ASEAN is gaining more ground than ever when it comes to economic development. It’s estimated that the entire region’s GDP has reached three trillion dollars in just a few years. However, this growth can become stagnant if they don’t find a way to sustain it.
As ASEAN member states look to developed countries for guidance on how to grow their economies, one key issue that often comes up is the skills gap.
The skills gap covers a wide range of topics, from a lack of technical skills to poor leadership. It’s an issue that all countries face, but ASEAN member states seem to struggle more than most.
There are a few reasons for this. First, many ASEAN countries are still relatively new to the global economy. They’re just starting to industrialize and are still catching up to developed countries.
This means they don’t have the same pool of experienced workers. Second, the education systems in many ASEAN countries aren’t as developed as they could be. This leads to a lack of qualified workers in fields like engineering and healthcare.
Finally, the culture in many ASEAN countries values conformity over individualism. This can make it difficult for people to take risks and innovate regarding education. ASEAN countries need to focus on five areas to bridge the divide in the skills gap. Here are those areas.
Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET)
One way to narrow the skills gap is by investing in technical and vocational education and training (TVET). TVET programs provide students with the practical skills and knowledge needed to excel in specific occupations. By establishing robust TVET systems, ASEAN countries can ensure that their citizens have the necessary skills to meet the demands of the modern economy.
However, it is not enough for TVET programs to exist; they must also be high quality. For TVET programs to be effective, they must be adequately designed and implemented. Furthermore, TVET providers must have strong relationships with local businesses to offer students relevant training that meets the needs of employers.
Apprenticeships and Internships
Another way to bridge the skills gap is by offering apprenticeships and internships. Apprenticeships are work-based training programs that allow participants to learn a trade while also earning a salary. On the other hand, internships are typically short-term positions that provide participants with hands-on experience in their chosen field.
Apprenticeships and internships can benefit ASEAN countries looking to reduce the skills gap. Apprenticeships allow individuals to gain real-world experience while also earning an income. And although internships are typically unpaid, they can still provide participants with valuable work experience that can help them secure full-time employment.
Employee Retraining Programs
In addition to investing in TVET programs and providing opportunities for young people to gain work experience through apprenticeships and internships, ASEAN countries should also consider establishing employee retraining programs. Such programs would provide workers with the opportunity to upgrade their skills so that they can keep pace with changes in technology and global economic trends. Employee retraining programs would not only benefit individual workers; they would also benefit businesses by helping them retain a skilled workforce.
Higher Education Incentives
Higher education, such as a Master’s program, brings much knowledge into the workforce. Countries such as the Philippines and India have programs dedicated to increasing higher education in specific industries like IT. For example, masters in IT in the Philippines are relatively common, with thousands of Filipinos graduating from the degree annually. They are also some of the highest-paid individuals in the country, making it an excellent incentive for people to pursue it. However, other ways exist to incentivize individuals to pursue higher education in specific industries. Here are some of them:
Tuition Reimbursement Programs
Most people want to pursue higher education but cannot pursue it financially. Companies can set up tuition reimbursement programs to encourage more people to take up higher education. Under such programs, employees can have a portion of their tuition fees reimbursed by their employer after they complete their studies.
Another way to incentivize individuals to take up higher education is by offering scholarships. Scholarships can be awarded based on financial need, academic merit, or a combination of both. By offering scholarships, ASEAN countries can make higher education more accessible to talented individuals who might not otherwise be able to afford it.
Workforce Development Initiatives
ASEAN countries should also invest in workforce development initiatives. Here are some of the most common:
The younger generation requires a place to start their job search. Job fairs are an excellent way for employers to connect with potential employees. Employers can promote their businesses at job fairs and provide information about open positions. On the other hand, job seekers can learn about different companies and find job openings that match their skills and interests.
Career counseling can help individuals make informed decisions about their careers. Career counselors can guide in choosing a career, planning a career, and finding a job. They can also offer advice on resume writing and interview preparation.
The skills gap is a growing problem in ASEAN countries. ASEAN countries must implement the right policies and programs to narrow the skills gap. These policies are an effective way to invest in the future of ASEAN.